I remember making bagels in one of my baking classes and have often thought about trying to make them again, but it’s one of those things that seems like it would be too difficult and time consuming to be worth the effort. Out of curiosity I looked up a recipe in my favourite bread book (The Wooden Spoon Bread Book by Marilyn M. Moore). After reading through the recipe it actually didn’t look that difficult. So I got the necessary ingredients and let them sit on the shelf.
Fast forward a couple months and take a moment to be grateful for my incredible husband who took our kids away for a weekend so I could have a couple days to myself for the first time in two years! What to do with a couple days to myself? Make bagels, of course!
Bagels, as I’m sure you know, are much more dense than regular bread. They require the addition of a high gluten flour (vital wheat gluten), and the recipe I used called for barley malt extract to add that distinctive flavour that good, artisanal bagels have. It was pretty straightforward once I got started. They needed to be kneaded a bit longer than regular bread to help develop the gluten more, and they actually needed less time to rise, giving the more dense, less airy texture.
Once the dough was mixed – which is way easier to do for longer when you use the mixer – I divided it into 12 pieces, and rolled each into a ball. Then I poked a hole in the middle and stretched each one into a ring. The rings only needed to rest for about 15 minutes (compared with the normal two rising times of an hour or so each for regular bread).
Another big difference with bagels is that they are simmered in almost boiling water (flavoured with more barley malt) for about a minute before going into the oven to bake. This contributes to their shiny appearance once baked, and adds to the chewiness. They bake for 10-15 minutes at a very high heat (450F), and voila! Fresh, chewy bagels from your own kitchen. They were very delicious, and because I was by myself and not on a normal eating routine, I’m pretty sure I ate three the day I made them!
I think it took just over an hour from start to finish, but I was doing something throughout that whole hour – no breaks for letting dough rest and rise. But now that I’ve tried it and know the process, I’m hoping we’ll have fresh bagels in the house a lot more often!